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Entries in Valerie Easton (1)


Does Your Garden's Design Make You Feel Good? 

The Pattern Garden: The Essential Elements of Garden Making, Valerie Easton, Timber Press

What makes a garden successful? Is it the accolades heaped upon it by one’s colleagues? Is it the fame it garners for it originality? Is a garden successful because it makes the homeowner and visitor feel good? American garden writer, Valerie Easton, has chosen the latter and has made it the theme of her book.

There is a delightful abstract quality to this publication. In it, the author takes good garden design to a higher, more spiritual level. Instead of discussing the aesthetic and scientific elements of design, as so many traditional garden design books do, she focuses on the role played in garden design by archetypal ideas - a.k.a. patterns - that reference the longings of human beings. These pleasure and comfort-rooted ideas are those that inspire designers to create gardens that are satisfying beyond their beauty.

Ms. Easton believes that a garden should be more than an outdoor living area or plant display. A successful garden should encourage us to enter, to explore, to be surprised, and to linger. A garden should make us feel good.

The inspiration to consider garden design from this perspective came to the author from two diverse but complementary sources. First, was the Japanese concept of wabi-sabi, or natural transitions, and secondly was Christopher Alexander’s collection of universally appealing patterns of urban design. Ms. Easton has distilled Mr. Alexander’s patterns down to 14 garden-specific ones that are essential to bringing people comfort and contentment outdoors.

Properly adapted to our personal needs, these patterns help create environments that satisfy us at our deepest levels. They explain why one garden is successful while another garden is not. In a successful garden, we should be able to feel ourselves moving through and experiencing the outdoor space on many sensory and emotional levels. By comparison, the author holds that an unsuccessful garden is worth admiring only from a distance because it engages one’s eyes and intellect and nothing more.

To help us appreciate the essence of a satisfying garden, she reacquaints us with its contextual and changing habits, as reinterpreted through the concepts of the Alexander patterns. For example, the reader will learn

  • How weather, soil, topography, and views create a unique garden site,
  • How the relationship of the garden’s scale to the house affects our overall impression of an outdoor space
  • How outdoor rooms, pathways, bridges and gates create a personal journey filled with anticipation
  • How enclosures and exposures provide shelter and borders to influence our levels of comfort  
  • How patios, sheds and focal points create desirable garden destinations
  • The soothing role played by water's sound and reflection
  • How ornamentation and containers provide garden art that pleases the eye
  • The contribution of organic and manmade materials in influencing our visual-tactile experience       

In addition to the refreshing approach that the author has taken to the topic of garden design, Timber Press also assigned a team of talented artist-photographers to illustrate Ms. Easton’s inspiring words. Special mention must go to Jacqueline Koch and her associates, Richard Hartlage and Allan Mandell.

Valerie Easton blgs at